The Cathedral of San Giorgio (Duomo di San Giorgio) is the cathedral of Modica, dedicated to Saint George. The church is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List and is one of the most prominent examples of the Sicilian Baroque.
A first church in Modica dedicated to Saint George was probably built by Roger I of Sicily after the Norman conquest of Sicily, which took place in 1090. The first official document that certifies the presence of the church is a papal bull from 1150, issued by Pope Eugene III.
However, the current church is the result of the reconstruction from the 17th century, which took place after the disastrous earthquakes that struck Modica in 1542, in 1613 and, probably the most destructive, in 1693.
The structure was designed by the architect Marcello from Palermo, with the laying of the first stone in 1643. The master builder of the church was Carlo D’Amico, also a native of Palermo.
The works for the reconstruction of the first order of the facade, which withstood the tremors of the 1693 earthquake, began in 1702 and were completed in 1738. In 1760, the architect Francesco Paolo Labisi from Noto designed the second and the third order of the facade. With the bells and the clock placed on the facade, the third order was completed in 1780.
The architect Carmelo Cultraro completed the project in 1842, with the construction of a spire for the iron cross, almost two hundreds years after the first stone was laid.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The imposing facade of the church rises to a height of 62 meters. A scenic stairway of 164 steps, designed by the Jesuit Francesco Di Marco in 1814 and completed in 1818, leads to the five portals of the facade. The part of the staircase located under Corso San Giorgio was designed in 1874 by the architect Alessandro Cappellani Judica and completed in 1880.
The landscape in front of the church is enriched by a garden on several levels, called Orto del Piombo, bordered by the monumental staircase.
The interior of the church has a Latin-cross plan with five naves, with 22 columns surmounted by Corinthian capitals, and three apses after the transept.
Inside, you can admire a grandiose organ with 4 keyboards, built between 1885 and 1888 by Casimiro Allieri from Bergamo, a painting of the Assumption by the late Florentine mannerist Filippo Paladini, a naive painting on wood, depicting the Nativity, by the Milanese painter Carlo Cane, the canvas depicting the Martyrdom of Saint Hippolytus, and many others works of art.
On the altar at the bottom of one of the two aisles on the right, rests the Holy Ark, called Santa Cassa, a silver work from Venice dating back to the 14th century, and given to the church by the Chiaramonte family.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Cathedral of San Giorgio is located about 1.6 kilometers away from the Modica railway station. To find the church on foot, use the map below.